Cleaning the sand?

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    For our box I claimed some sand from a local gravel supplier. It’s fine grained and uniform granule size. I thought the brown colour would be a problem, but it reflects just fine (see the Sandbox Art thread). What is a problem though is dust. With every pour and shift a significant amount of dust rises. After only 3 evenings there’s a noticeable film on the projector’s air vents, and I’m concerned the projector will prematurely overheat and die.

    Anyone have bright ideas on how to clean the sand? It’s winter where I am and well below freezing , I can’t just dump it in a wash tub and spray a garden hose over it.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.


    Oliver Kreylos

    If you have dust, you should definitely try washing your sand. Sand dust might muck up the workings of your PC and projector, and if your sand is silica/quartz, i.e., the kind of stuff you find at the beach, then you don’t want to breathe in large amounts, either.

    Sandtastik sand, the brand we recommend, has a cleaning guide that might or might not work for you.

    An alternative idea, off the top of my head, would be to dump a bunch of sand into a bucket, fill the bucket with water, and then use a plastic mesh kitchen strainer to fish handfuls of sand back out of the bucket, shaking on the way out to get rid of fine dust. If your sand is finer than the finest strainer you can find, you could try using a cheese cloth, but I’m just spitballing at this point.


    I’ve had aquariums for 30+ years, always using sand.
    there is one simple way to clean sand, take a 5 gal bucket (I use home depot orange ones)
    fill up half way with sand, insert hose and use your hands to churn the sand,
    when the water runs clean then the sand is clean.

    dump sand and repeat.


    Thanks folks. I like the simplicity of the half full bucket and a hose, though it’s going to take some work to get a hose hooked up inside this time of year. I’ll try it first.


    It’s been a year since anyone posted here but I thought if someone goes searching they would find this sand washing tweak useful.

    I like the sensory experience of running my hand through the sand.

    For our display with lots of turn over, the fine silica sand seems to lure and engage more than other products in that short window of experience.

    If you use fine sand like Sandtastik, as Oliver pointed out above it will play havoc on your equipment and body if it is dusty.

    Lungs, eyes, mucus membranes all find silica dust irritating and the fine circuitry of projectors and computers can be wrecked.

    Many projectors have a design the uses a filter at the fan inlet, but I’ve seen that all of them pull air (and silica dust) in from any gap or opening such as around the lens and the front of the projector housing–making that filter a well intended bit of useless.

    Your computer fan tends to gulp air, especially the power supply, unfiltered.

    So washing and drying your sand will help remove the fine dust that accompanies fine sand and avoid hassle down the road.

    I found one technique used in ceramic glaze filtering to work nicely.

    Occasionally thirsty mice in search of water in our rural pottery studio in a dry area drop into glaze buckets looking for a sip, never to escape.

    Their carcasses disintegrate leaving hair, bones and general grossness, so you want to let the fine glaze powder and silt through and sift out the mouse mummies.

    Commercial paint sprayers have similar problems, they want the fine paint to pass through but hold back sand and dried paint chunks so they don’t block the fine spay tip.

    There are mesh bags designed to fit into a 5 gallon buckets that let the fine stuff through and hold back the sand particle and larger chunks.

    I used a series of buckets and painter’s filters to help rinse over 200 pounds of sand.

    Steps I used:
    1. line five gallon bucket with painter’s filter bag
    painter's filter 2 pack, 5 gallon bucket and Sandtastik
    2. Fill bag/bucket with half one or two gallons of sand.
    3. Fill bucket with water half way and agitate sand while lifting it.
    sand rinsing
    4. Dunk and lift several times like a tea bag.
    5. *Optional* have another bucket where you can hold the bag and rinse from the sides to flush additional fines.
    extra rinse
    6. Dump rinsed sand into clean holding bucket and repeat until all is rinsed.

    200 pounds of sand fits in about three 5 gallon buckets, therefore you will need to repeat these steps 6 to 10 times to process all of it.

    After rinsing I will dry it to a moistness that is dry enough to flow smoothly and damp enough to hold down any remaining dust as well as allow a little sculpting.

    I have succulents in a large planter, so I poured the used water with rinsed out fines into their pot to recycle the water.
    The fines mixed well with the decorative sand or gravel soil topping.

    If doing in summer time, scattering the sand across a 10 mil plastic sheet slightly raised at one end over a concrete or asphalt slab allowed gravity to drain off water on the slight grade and sunshine to dry out all the sand quickly.

    In winter time, I’ve used 2 large aluminum turkey roasting pans full of sand baked at 400° F in an oven for 1/2 an hour in sequence until all sand was try.
    (Warning, your kitchen will smell like a tropical vacation of hot beach and inspire Hawaiian or Caribbean vacation searches).
    This may also be a way for your to “sterilize” your sand if required by your organization after heavy use.

    Hope that helps someone down the line.

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